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J. Paul Reed on Releasing Software at Scale: Keeping Firefox Running on Millions of Desktops




In commercial software development, the role of a build/release engineer can differ widely among organizations. In open source software, the role is often minimal, if it exists at all.

But for consumer-oriented open source projects, like Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird, turning a thirty megabyte source tarball into something that mom, dad, and your boyfriend can use takes someone polishing those bits and running them across the finish line.

Do it simultaneously for three platforms in over forty languages, mix in automatic updates to millions of users' desktops, and you have: open source software engineering at scale.

We'll explore:
* What role a build/release engineer plays in an open source context
* How it's a different one from its closed-source sibling
* Why it's an important one (even in open source)
* Differences between releasing a web browser and releasing other large-scale open source projects (like the kernel or Apache), and
* How a group of worldwide volunteers fits in to releasing software to millions.

Plus, war stories, "gotchas" learned after interacting directly with millions of desktop computers, plenty of time for questions, and GimpArt[1].

Further Information:
[1] http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/preed/2006/11/version_control_system_shootou.html

About J. Paul Reed:
J. Paul Reed (affectionately/infamously known as Preed) began his tenure on the Netscape Build Team at the tender age of 18, just months after the "Lizard was Freed" in 1998.

After studying software engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, he joined VMware's build/release team, helping to ship their their enterprise ESX and popular Workstation products. In 2005, he came full circle, and doubled the size of the Mozilla Corporation's release team.

As the release module owner, he has helped to ship every release of Firefox and Thunderbird, simultaneously on three platforms in over forty languages, including playing playing lead release monkey for the flagship Firefox 2.0 launch. In reality, it's the team of five MozCorp build engineers around the world and a community of hundreds that make it possible... he's just along for the ride.

When he's not pushing bits out the door, getting his blog slashdotted, or locking the build tree, he spends his time piloting Cessnas around the pristine California skies, attempting to make edible food without burning down his apartment, and is forever trying to catch up on his RSS feed reader.


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